Human waste sludge on farms

March 28, 2017
Kevin Elliott
Farmer Dave Blakney and his son, Chris, started growing row crops about 17 years ago on their 300-acre farm in Huron Township, but it was more recently that Blakney said he learned about the availability of "biosolids," as an alternative to traditional fertilizer for some crops. "It's very good. Nitrogen is the main interest. It usually has about 190 pounds of nitrogen per acre, and that's very good. The fertilizing quality is excellent," Blakney said. "It's free. No charge, typically."...more»

The Whistleblower Act

March 28, 2017
Lisa Brody
Ben Graham was 25 years old, and thought he had hit the employment jackpot, having landed what he believed was a dream job as a legislative aide in the Michigan House of Representatives, for former Rep. Todd Courser (R-Lapeer). But that job soon turned out to be a nightmare, with Courser having an affair with fellow Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Allegan), with whom he shared an office and staff, and having asked his staff, including Graham, to create a rumor that he had had sex with a male prostitute in ...more»

Revenge porn

February 21, 2017
Lisa Brody
Lindsay (not her real name) is a beautiful Oakland County twenty-something, working to make it in the modeling world. A 2014 photo shoot between herself and an aspiring photographer, where she had several nude photographs taken, were destined to remain private. While a few photos were posted of her au natural, the photographer and herself were the only two people on the planet whose eyes were destined to see the most risqué pictures. ...more»

Paraquat

February 21, 2017
Kevin Elliott
J. William Langston was working as the head of neurology in July of 1982 at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, in California, where a 42-year-old heroin addict was brought from the county jail after suddenly becoming unable to move or speak...more»

Charter schools

February 02, 2017
Lisa Brody
A public school education is as enshrined in America as the Pilgrims, with the first public school founded in Boston in 1635. But there have always been private and parochial schools for those who have made that personal family choice, although by and large our zip codes have made the decision of which school our children would attend....more»

Impact of septic systems

February 02, 2017
Kevin Elliott
State environmental regulators estimate there are about 1.3 million on-site wastewater, or septic, systems operating in the state of Michigan, with 10 percent or more of those failing to work properly. In total, the state estimates about 31 million gallons of wastewater from toilets and drains not being treated properly are affecting our waterways and groundwater....more»

Protecting the rivers

December 20, 2016
Kevin Elliott
John Hartig was a senior high school student in 1969 when he and his classmates in Allen Park watched a plume of smoke rise from the Rouge River....more»

Kids or criminals

December 20, 2016
Lisa Brody
At the end of each school year, local Michigan school districts are required to report to the Michigan Department of Education the total number of all of the students who have been expelled that year, along with a list of 20-some infractions, which include everything from truancy to homicide, bullying to gang-related violence, that have occurred on school grounds or at school activities....more»

Rise and fall of a newspaper

November 22, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Most people might not consider being hospitalized with an unexpected heart condition a stroke of good luck, but Frank Shepherd, former owner of 21st Century Newspapers and The Oakland Press, said a three-day stint at a cardiac unit near the end of 2003 was just that....more»

Battle for trash hauling

November 22, 2016
Lisa Brody
What was once a small snow plowing company, with only the city of Hamtramck as a major customer, is now the dominant waste hauler in southeastern Michigan, with contracts for hauling trash and recycling for 55 municipalities, including 20 out of 62 communities in Oakland County. This growth by Rizzo Environmental Services has come at the expense of other waste haulers, and is now the subject of a public corruption probe by the FBI in Macomb County. While there currently is no known evidence of corruption ...more»

Tax audits for homesteads

November 22, 2016
Katie Deska
Owning a home provides many benefits, from the pride in having a place of your own, to being able to take a deduction on your annual tax return. One responsibility of home ownership is paying property taxes to your municipality, which includes funds to the state which come back to local school districts as per-pupil funding. When the home is your primary residence, homeowners pay the municipality's annual millage rate. However, if the home is a second, or other non-primary residence, the non-principal ...more»

Removing the lead

October 25, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Effects from lead in plumbing, paint and gasoline continue to haunt the health and well-being of communities even decades after its widespread use ended, but tons of lead from gasoline are still released each year at general aviation airports throughout the nation, which include three in Oakland County....more»

Heroin surge continuing

October 25, 2016
Katie Deska
Once only the province of cheap, seedy hotels, today's junkies are shooting up in living rooms, public bathrooms, in affluent shopping malls and nice restaurants. Users are young and old, and everyone in between. They're overdosing on heroin, on pain pills and opioids, on synthetic drugs better left in operating rooms or with veterinarians. Often, users don't even know what their doses are laced with, and that their hits are tens, or hundreds of times, stronger than heroin alone. As a result, drug ...more»

School funding disparity

October 25, 2016
Lisa Brody
The debate over which school districts have more money, and therefore, which students are better prepared for college and the world beyond, has been raging for decades. It was supposed to have been settled in 1994, when Michigan enacted new legislation to end the funding of local school districts completely from property tax revenues, instead transferring the funding to the state, through legislation called Proposal A, which set up a per pupil amount for both wealthier districts and poorer districts. ...more»

Coal tar sealant

September 27, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Just imagine a hidden health risk lurking in your driveway or a nearby parking lot that could be harming you, your children, and the nearby environment. A growing number of scientists, community leaders and environmentalists think there is, and many are taking action to do something about it. The problem, they say, rests in the coal tar-based sealcoat that is often applied to asphalt driveways and parking lots to protect the pavement from oils, tire wear and other factors that lessen the life of ...more»

Death With Dignity movement

September 27, 2016
Katie Deska
Since the late pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian became famous, or infamous, depending on the point of view, in the 1990s for helping ill patients with doctor-assisted suicide, the issue of whether a terminally ill person has the right to determine when and how to end their life has been debated in public arenas and private living rooms. Is it an individual's right to die, or is it euthanasia? For most of us, there's no simple or easy answer. ...more»

Poverty in Oakland County

September 27, 2016
Lisa Brody
The image of people who are poor and suffering from poverty are often of homeless men sleeping on the streets, of a destitute individual living out of their car, or someone holed up at a shelter. There's a school of thought that it's their fault — if they would only get a job, and perhaps give up their addictions, they would be able to pull themselves out of poverty, get a nice home in the suburbs, and live well....more»

Riding into the future

August 23, 2016
Lisa Brody
There’s no secret that Detroit, and surrounding areas, have had a 100-plus year love affair with automobiles. We love to drive them, build them, cruise them, and gaze at them. For many homeowners, a two-car garage is no longer sufficient, with three-car garages becoming more and more common in newer suburban homes. Yet, there are still many people without cars, and in need of reliable transportation. Increasingly, young people are choosing not to get their driver's licenses at 16. Millennials ...more»

Quality of school water

August 23, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Concerns over student health and safety in the wake of the Flint water crisis have spurred many local school districts to step up efforts to ensure their water is free of excessive lead and copper contamination, but the lack of meaningful action at the state and federal levels may give parents and officials a false sense of security....more»

Seeking refuge

July 27, 2016
Lisa Brody
Tariq (not his real name) first stepped foot on American soil on January 21, 2016, after three long years spent as a refugee in limbo in Turkey. Originally from Mosul, Iraq, he said, through an interpreter, he escaped his hometown and home country "due to the threat of terrorism and the violence of the groups in the area." He was also working with American groups in Iraq, making him more of a target, he said. ...more»

Next generation of 911

July 27, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Less than 50 cents. That's the amount the typical phone customer in Oakland County is charged each month to fund emergency 911 services provided by the state and local public safety agencies. However, exactly what services and capabilities are available varies by the location of the call and the type of phone being used....more»

Excavation and reclamation

July 27, 2016
Katie Deska and Lisa Brody
Island Lake of Novi is a master planned community built on 901 acres in the heart of the city of Novi, with its own 170-acre lake, five miles of shoreline, a marina, parks, miles of carefully curated walking trails, boat docks, pools, tennis courts, and numerous other amenities, along with 876 two-story semi-custom homes. At first glance, it looks like it was designed around nature's best features....more»

Medical waste in water

June 30, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Water is rarely pure. Whether it is water that enters our home for drinking and bathing, or dirty water flushed down the drain and returned back to the environment, there are hundreds of potential contaminants that remain in our water, even after purification efforts....more»

The graying of Oakland

June 30, 2016
Lisa Brody
There's a saying that at 20, you have the body you were born with; at 40, the body you're working on; and at 60, the body you deserve. As more and more people are living longer and staying active and healthier, the saying could be extended to the age of 80....more»

Fugitive apprehension teams

June 30, 2016
Katie Deska
As a citizen, it can be one of life's scariest moments, hearing that a wanted individual is on the loose, possibly in the local community....more»

Tale of Two Cities

May 27, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Suburban sprawl, the mantra of the second half of the twentieth century, appears to be gasping its last breaths as baby boomers and Millennials alike are seeking cities providing walkability as part of a multi-modal plan in residential, commercial and entertainment districts. Known in the municipal planning field as New Urbanism, it is a process which promotes walkable communities with a mix of housing, businesses and retail establishments while focusing also on local history and ecology. Embraced ...more»

Military recruiting in schools

May 27, 2016
Katie Deska
Although few high school teens are eligible to enlist in the armed forces, federal law requires that the majority of secondary schools across the country provide military recruiters with the names, address, and phone numbers of students who have not exclusively requested otherwise. Throughout Oakland County, schools work to interpret that in a variety of ways....more»

Every day phthalate threat

May 27, 2016
Lisa Brody
To the normal eye, it would seem there would be no connection linking asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, various neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, anogenital distance, and male fertility issues. ...more»

LGBT policy storm

April 27, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Michigan is finding itself in the center of a storm over policy recommendations relative to LGBT students that have been developed by the Michigan Department of Education and the Board of Education....more»

Muslim leaders speak out

April 27, 2016
Lisa Brody
Too often the object of fear and derision, true followers of Islam assert the religion is one of love, respect, and peace. It is also one of three religions, including Christianity and Judaism, which come from the same roots. They are called the "Abraham religions," because they each trace their history back to Abraham, first mentioned in the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament. Muslims believe that Moses and Jesus are prophets, as well as their prophet Muhammad. Around the world, there are 1.6 billion ...more»

Stocking waterways with fish

April 27, 2016
Katie Deska
One of the state’s most revered places to fish brown trout runs through Oakland County, namely the Paint Creek. The coldwater stream is a haven for anglers who seek out the spotted fish, accented with a square tail and a golden belly. Since the 1800s, the brown trout has been fished in Michigan, yet many an angler may be surprised to know that it first arrived by boat from Germany, and isn't a native species at all....more»

Watering golf courses

March 31, 2016
Kevin Elliott
More than 1.1 billion gallons. That's how much water golf course superintendents in Oakland County reported pumping out of rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater aquifers in 2014, according to records provided by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's (MDEQ) Water Use Reporting Program. With more than 60 golf courses in the area, Oakland County alone accounts for about 14 percent of all water withdrawals in the state for golf course irrigation — more than any other county in Michigan. ...more»

Recreational pot drive

March 31, 2016
Katie Deska
Approaching the eighth anniversary of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters, the current political battle over cannabis centers not so much on whether or not the state should legalize recreational marijuana, but rather, it poses the question of when legalization will take effect, and who will control and profit from the million dollar industry....more»

Never-ending abortion fight

March 31, 2016
Lisa Brody
Regardless of your personal stance, the statistics bear out that one in three women in the United States of childbearing age currently have had, or will have, an abortion. These are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, lovers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, and even, ourselves — women opting to terminate a pregnancy for any myriad of reasons. Since 1973, with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, it has been a legal decision to make. Yet since that momentous ruling was made, it has ...more»

What’s below the surface?

February 29, 2016
Katie Deska
Weaving under streets, yards, intersections, between miles of water mains, cables and a network of natural gas lines, four interstate hazardous liquid transmission pipelines bisect Oakland County. Of those, two carry crude oil; one carries refined petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating oil; and the fourth, ethane....more»

The local lead threat

February 29, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Health and environmental experts have been warning people for decades about the health risks associated with exposure to lead. But, as with many health issues, there is often little thought given to potential hazards until a health crisis presents itself....more»

Protecting student athletes

January 29, 2016
Lisa Brody
Training a student athlete, such as a football player, in the old days, consisted of heading to the school's weight room and pumping iron to the coach's specifications. But not anymore. Today, athletic training is a specialized field, the result of a four-year college degree, national certification and state licensing. As both a move to prevent injuries and an effort to rehabilitate athletes, many local public and private schools have added certified athletic trainers to their athletic departments....more»

Public safety transparency

January 29, 2016
Kevin Elliott
Michigan is the worst. At least that was the finding of a 2015 national report card issued by the Center for Public Integrity grading states on governmental ethics, accountability and transparency. While there were only three states with grades higher than a D+, Michigan was ranked dead last out of the 11 that received failing grades....more»

Sex offender registry questions

November 30, 2015
Kevin Elliott
If knowledge is power, then it would seem that knowing the names, addresses and other identifying information of some 38,521 state-registered sex ­offenders in Michigan, including more than 1,800 in Oakland County, would help give the public the ability to keep themselves and their children safe....more»

Health risks with artificial turf

November 30, 2015
Katie Deska
Old car and truck tires, pulverized and repurposed, create cushioning in artificial athletic fields nationwide, enabling schools to increase the number of practices and games played, yet the safety of crumb rubber — tiny black rubber particles, called "turf bugs" in the sports community — remains disputed as a purported cause of increased injuries to student athletes. There are also numerous parents, coaches, and physicians nationwide who cite an increase of serious illnesses, including ...more»

Glyphosate: safe or not?

November 02, 2015
Lisa Brody
It's a chemical most have likely never heard of, glyphosate, other than as the weed killer Roundup. A white crystal that is odorless, it was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, and it has since become the world's best selling herbicide of all time. It was developed to control a wide variety of weeds, grasses and broadleaf plants. Originally designed for farmers, it is also used, in a slightly different formulation, by landowners, local municipalities and school districts, and residential homeowners ...more»

Cost of legislative franking

September 28, 2015
Kevin Elliott
Should public schools require students to be vaccinated as a condition of attendance? Do you support legalizing marijuana? Should churches be required to perform same-sex marriages?...more»

Municipal e-mail policies

August 27, 2015
Kevin Elliott
One in six American workers say that e-mail is "very important" for doing their job, with about 78 percent of office workers in the United States depending on the use of...more»

Local tax free land

July 28, 2015
Kevin Elliott
It has been said that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes, but for some property owners in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area, there is no requirement to pay property taxes. While the vast majority of property owners in the nearly 23,000-acre area that makes up Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills must pay property taxes, about four percent of property in the area is exempt from taxes....more»

Police force diversity

June 25, 2015
Kevin Elliott
In the early morning hours of July 23, 1967, a group of about 80 black people were celebrating the return of soldiers from Vietnam at a blind pig at 12th Street, now Rosa Parks Boulevard, and Clairmont Street in Detroit, when a predominantly white police force raided the club. What ensued after was a five-day riot that spread through Detroit, leaving 43 people dead, 1,189 injured, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. ...more»

Religious freedom fight

June 01, 2015
Lisa Brody
Freedom is an important and significant word. It's the basis for the first three articles of our Bill of Rights. According to the dictionary, one meaning is "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint"; another definition states freedom is "the power of self-determination attributed to the will, the quality of being independent of fate or necessity." Yet those definitions of freedom can simultaneously be interpreted from opposite sides of the same coin, ...more»

Nuclear drinking water threat

May 04, 2015
Kevin Elliott
Plans by a Canadian power utility to bury nuclear waste along the eastern shore of Lake Huron has raised concerns about the possibility that radioactive materials could enter the Great Lakes and contaminate the world’s largest source of freshwater and the drinking supply for about 40 million people, including those in southeast Michigan and the majority of the residents in Oakland County....more»

Boomers’ drug challenge

May 04, 2015
Lisa Brody
Arlene claims she wasn’t a typical teen of the ‘60s and ‘70s — mostly because in those days she was against doing drugs during the era of "Turn on, tune in, drop out," the counterculture phrase about doing LSD popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966. ...more»

The kids are not all white

March 30, 2015
Lisa Brody
Each of us, at one time or another, has had to stop and ask who we are and what we stand for. It may occur during a period of self-realization, turmoil, or due to outside influences. It is hopefully an opportunity to reflect and pivot, and see ourselves with fresh eyes and less bias....more»

Oakland's last farmers

March 02, 2015
Kevin Elliott
Clark Cook wakes before the dawn every day and heads to the barn at his north Oakland County farm to milk more than four dozen cows. By 9 a.m., he collects more than 400 gallons for processing. It’s a long, labor-intensive process, and one that he and his family has done for three generations....more»

Restaurant inspections

February 02, 2015
Kevin Elliott
Nowadays, everybody is a food critic. From the local drive thru to metro Detroit’s finest five-star establishments, websites such as yelp.com and urbanspoon.com allow anyone with an Internet connection to critique one of the more than 10,000 restaurants in the tri-county area, regardless of their palate or knowledge of food and food preparation. Ultimately, the most important reviews for a restaurant are often the ones conducted by the local health department....more»

The plight of illegal immigrants

December 29, 2014
Lisa Brody
The words are inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal in the Statue of Liberty, once the first sight new immigrants to the United States glimpsed of our country: "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These iconic words from the poem "New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus have long epitomized the feelings of those settling in our country from foreign lands, and remain as relevant today as when they were first penned in 1883....more»

The Chaldean migration

December 01, 2014
Lisa Brody
They are often confused, in the metro Detroit area, as being part of the over 400,000 Arab or Palestinian American community members located here. Yet Chaldeans, part of a tight-knit community who are neither Arab, nor Muslim, actually have little in common with those who come from a similar part of the world as themselves....more»

Storm water overflow

December 01, 2014
Kevin Elliott
Water and other liquid refuse flowing through the miles of sewers in Oakland County flow downhill. So, when more than five inches of rain fell during a three-hour period in August across southeast Michigan, more than two billion gallons of partially treated sewage also traveled downhill, journeying from southeast Oakland County into the Red Run Drain in Macomb County. It was much more than the system could handle, with all local systems overflowing, flooding sewer systems designed to capture the ...more»

Unions struggle to survive

November 03, 2014
Lisa Brody
Labor unions, credited with helping workers achieve fair wages, benefits and good working conditions, as well as the creation of a mass middle class in America in the second half of the 20th century, has fallen from favor as the calendar has turned the page to the 21st century....more»

Ku Klux Klan re-emerging

September 02, 2014
Lisa Brody
Scott Shephard, who calls himself a reformed racist after over 20 years of membership in four different Ku Klux Klan groups, including the White Citizen’s Council of the rural Mississippi Delta, recounts his own tale, "Over the years I was in the Klan, I participated in lots of rallies and intimidation. There were cross burnings on peoples’ yards, or on public property, and lots of beatings. I witnessed many, and kinda encouraged some. But I didn’t get involved with any violent ...more»

Unregulated drinking water chemicals

August 04, 2014
Kevin Elliott
Tap water supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has been touted for decades as being some of the highest quality drinking water produced by any public utility in the country and required water quality reports by local communities regularly indicate drinking water that meets or exceeds federal standards. ...more»

The air we breathe

June 30, 2014
Kevin Elliott
Regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do, or what our beliefs are, it’s the one true substance we can’t live without. We like to say it’s important to take a breath of fresh air, to clear our heads in the fresh air, yet could the air we breathe be making us sick?...more»

Hazardous local train cargo

June 02, 2014
Kevin Elliott
Thirteen miles per hour may not seem fast enough to cause a fatal accident, but when dealing with a 4,791-ton freight train more than a mile long, 13 miles per hour can have catastrophic results. Thus was the case on Nov. 15, 2011, when two trains collided near Clarkston, killing two crew members of one train, injuring two others, and forcing the evacuation of dozens of businesses, two schools and hundreds of residents....more»

Jewish metro migration

May 05, 2014
Lisa Brody
The Wandering Jew, someone without roots in a community, is often joked about as those in the Jewish community move from community to community seeking upward mobility. But the origins of the actual term is a negative one, as legend has it originating in Biblical times with Cain sent off as the original wandering Jew. A story in Genesis has Cain being issued the punishment to wander the earth, never reaping a harvest, only scavenging. During Medieval times, another legend had an eternal wanderer ...more»

Leaking storage tanks

March 03, 2014
Kevin Elliott
Less than a penny per gallon. That’s how much Michigan motorists pay at the pump to ensure the gas going into our tanks isn’t leaking into the ground from underground storage tanks before filling up our own vehicles. That equates to about $50 million every year that is collected by the state to repair leaking underground storage tanks and the contamination associated with them....more»

Plastic microbead contamination

February 04, 2014
Lisa Brody
Brushing our teeth each morning and evening is a routine that we all follow without thinking about what is in the toothpaste we buy at the drugstore. We carefully brush, rinse and spit that toothpaste down the drain. More and more of us wash our hands with liquid hand soaps and disinfectants, and care for our skin with facial products that exfoliate and cleanse our faces with tiny beads that remove dead skin cells and reveal a sparkling and refreshed new us. Inside many personal care products that ...more»

Plan B reality: available or not?

December 30, 2013
By Allison Batdorff
Most every pharmacy in our community has a "sex" section. Condoms hang here in tidy boxes. Lubricants hawk security, friction and fruity flavors. Jellies found here are not for your toast....more»
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